How to communicate with young children about Coronavirus

Isabel Mohan

Isabel Mohan, Head of Content

11 March 2020

While most adults are now taking precautions to stop the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), encouraging young children to follow strict hygiene practices can be tricky.

Children might often seem oblivious to the grown-up world around them, but they will have been overhearing snippets about the virus at home, on the news and at their school or childcare setting. If parents or carers are anxious about the illness, they will pick up on it, and may feel frightened or have questions. Here at tiney we believe that by communicating the basics to them, and bringing in some simple, fun activities, we can empower them to stay as safe and clean as possible and avoid spreading germs.

Put some glitter on it

Every parent knows that glitter gets everywhere - but this actually makes it the perfect tool for teaching young children how rapidly germs can spread. Putting a small amount of glitter on your little one’s hands and then observing how easily it transfers onto every object they touch is a great visual way of showing them how easily germs can spread if hands aren’t kept clean. By explaining that germs are even tinier than glitter, they will begin to understand the importance of washing their hands.

Mix up the hand wash playlist

Us grown-ups might feel a bit silly singing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing our hands, but children will think it’s great fun. However, if it’s starting to wear thin - or if you want to avoid them expecting cake and candles every time they’re at the sink - there are a few other well-known songs that will do the job too: one round of If You’re Happy & You Know It (with “wash your hands” instead of “clap your hands”, of course) also comes in at around the recommended 20 seconds, while the ABC song is just the right length too.

Keep their hands busy

One of the toughest challenges is getting children to stop touching their own faces (not to mention each other’s…). If you’re in charge of a little one who’s forever putting their fingers in their mouth or picking their nose, it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. But keeping their hands occupied as much as possible is one way of minimising the amount of face-fiddling they do. If you’re caring for more than one child, giving them their own pot of play doh or sticker book, rather than sharing with friends, will keep their hands busy… with plenty of hand washing before and after, of course. In a shared environment, labelling their cups and toys with their name, photo or favourite colour - anything they can easily recognise, depending on their age - is a simple tactic to avoid the spread of germs too.

The Department for Education have set up a Coronavirus Advice Line. If you are a childcare setting and have a question about what steps you need to take to prevent infection, or in the event of a suspected infection, please call 0800 046 8687

Isabel Mohan profile img

Isabel Mohan

Head of Content

Isabel started her career in showbiz journalism, where she interviewed everyone from Russell Brand to the Cheeky Girls. After becoming a mum to two kids (and two cats), she grew weary of needing to identify individual Kardashians and instead got a taste for communicating with parents. She spent three years at Mush, the social app for mums (where she also wrote The Mumsition, a lighthearted guide to parenting) and has now joined tiney to sprinkle some glitter across all things content.

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